As Jesus-followers we are fairly obsessive about sexual aberrations. But what if going to the mall to buy something you really don’t need was just as offensive to God (or more so) than visiting a brothel. Jesus chided the Pharisees for straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. What if at the end of all things we found out that sexual aberration was the gnat and materialism was the camel! Why is gluttony conveniently overlooked, while sexual activity is examined under our spiritual microscopes? There is grace without limit … dare I say … even a sweeping under the rug, for those in the Church who eat when they are not hungry simply for the shear pleasure of consuming something, or those for who buy what they don’t need just for the joy of owning something. But for sexual activity there is abundant scrutiny, careful measuring and compulsive concern.
The very first temptation faced by Jesus as recorded in the Scriptures was to turn stones into bread when he was legitimately hungry. Jesus refused to do it. It wasn’t that eating bread was selfish – Jesus ate and drank plenty in his life, even absolving his disciples when their eating broke Sabbath laws (Matt. 12:1-8) and laws about ceremonial cleanliness (Luke 7:1-23). Nor was it sin for Jesus to transform stones into bread, for shortly after this encounter, Jesus turned water into wine to bail out a party whose alcohol had dried up, and he multiplied bread and fish to feed a hungry crowd. His response to the Devil was that God’s word trumps our appetites, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:4.
I believe that heterosexual, monogamous, married sex is God’s perfect standard just as I believe that contentment with the simplicity of material sufficiency or eating what is good for our bodies only when we are hungry is God’s perfect standard. To step outside those things can be idolatrous and can create hardship for ourselves and others. Our natural tendency … you might even say our genetic wiring, calls us to eat and to buy and to have sex outside these confines. But just because we have a genetic predisposition to indulge appetites which are outside of God’s boundaries does not give us permission to satisfy them. His boundaries as laid out in his word are fair and generous even if our desires extend beyond them.
What about monogamous homosexuality? This is a form of sex within certain boundaries. But I suppose you could make that argument with monogamous adult-child sex, or monogamous human animal sex. We can’t pick and choose which boundaries we obey. One may have a genetic predisposition for same sex coupling just as one may have a genetic predisposition for polygamy or a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism or a genetic predisposition for overeating. We are all drawn by our appetites to enjoy things outside of what is good and just and healthy.
By suggesting that sexual aberration may be the gnat and materialism may be the camel, I am not advocating eating a bowl full of gnats. I am simply saying that the Church in America should be as concerned about the spiritually deadly impact of conspicuous consumption or overeating as she is about sex outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Paul said that there was sickness in the church at Corinth because there was gluttony among some while others went hungry during the Lord’s supper (I Cor. 20-30). The prophet Isaiah decried the leaders of Israel saying, “the plunder of the poor is in your houses.” (Is. 3:14) and many times throughout Scripture judgment came to God’s people because of unfair treatment of those on the economic fringe.
Let us be vigilant in pursuing sexual holiness, yes. But let us also pursue uncompromising holiness in our treatment of the poor, unrelenting kindness to those on the margins, and diligent restraint in our appetites for all things outside the generous boundaries of our Maker.